National Geographic : 2011 Nov
• smoothly. Schwarz's endoscope kept bumping into ice crystals that blurred the camera lens. A er an hour, the neurosurgery team nished up, not entirely sure whether they had obtained a viable sample. e initial attempts to explore the stomach were also frustrating. Peter Malfertheiner, of the Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg, tried to insinuate an endoscope down the Ice- man's throat into the stomach, but ve millennia of atrophy and mummi cation blocked the way. Egarter Vigl stepped in with a less delicate ap- proach. Using the large Austrian window at the lower end of the torso, he stuck a gloved hand into the Iceman's gut. He pulled out two large chunks of undigested food, then switched to a kitchen spoon and scooped several more ounces from the Iceman's very full stomach. By the end of the day, the laboratory freez- er brimmed with 149 biological samples--- "enough for about 50 papers," quipped one of the biologists. As soon as the autopsy concluded, Samadelli lowered the temperature in the labo- ratory below freezing. e next morning he and Egarter Vigl spruced up the body with a ne spray of sterilized water, which froze on contact. en they slid the Iceman back into his high- tech igloo and closed the door. THE AUTOPSY HAD TAKEN about nine hours; analy- sis of the material gleaned will take years. e rst revelations were disclosed in June, when Zink and his colleagues presented some of their initial ndings at a scienti c meeting. anks to the DNA in a tiny speck of pelvic bone culled during the autopsy, the Iceman has joined the company of renowned biologists James D. Wat- son and J. Craig Venter as one of a handful of humans whose genomes have been sequenced in exquisite detail. e genetic results add both information and intrigue. From his genes, we now know that the Iceman had brown hair and brown eyes and that he was probably lactose intolerant and thus could not digest milk---somewhat ironic, given theories that he was a shepherd. Not surprisingly, he is more related to people living in southern Europe today than to those in North Africa or the Mid- dle East, with close connections to geographically isolated modern populations in Sardinia, Sicily, and the Iberian Peninsula. e DNA analysis also revealed several genetic variants that placed the Iceman at high risk for hardening of the arteries. ("If he hadn't been shot," Zink remarked, "he probably would have died of a heart attack or stroke in ten years.") Perhaps most surpris- ing, researchers found the genetic footprint of bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi in his DNA---making the Iceman the earliest known human infected by the bug that causes Lyme disease. e autopsy results have also rewritten the story of the Iceman's nal moments. e neu- roscientists determined that blood had indeed accumulated at the back of the Iceman's brain, suggesting some sort of trauma---either from falling on his face from the force of the arrow, Zink speculated, or perhaps from a coup de grâce administered by his assailant. DNA analysis of the nal meal is ongoing, but one thing is already clear: It was greasy. Initial tests indicate the pres- ence of fatty, baconlike meat of a kind of wild goat called an alpine ibex. "He really must have had a heavy meal at the end," Zink said---a fact that undermines the notion that he was eeing in fear. Instead, it appears he was resting in a spot protected from the wind, tranquilly digesting his meal, unaware of the danger he was in. And of course, unaware of the intense atten- tion awaiting him far in the future. e Iceman might be the most exposed and invaded per- son who ever walked the planet. " ere were moments yesterday," Zink said in a so , almost surprised voice, "when you felt sorry for him. He was so ... explored. All his secrets---inside him, outside him, all around him---were open to exploration." He paused and added, "Only the arrowhead remains inside him, as if he's saying, is is my last secret." j Iceman Murder Mystery, a new NOVA--National Geographic Special, airs Wednesday, October 26, on PBS; check local listings.